The air was perfect that night—cool enough to be comfortable, but humid enough to cause the hornline’s rich chord to ring for several seconds after the conductor gave the release. The sound carried miles away across the pink and gold sky (which, yes, was much “appreciated” by the entire drum corps). It was still for a moment before the horn ripple snaked down the arc, and the magic broke as the corps relaxed from attention. As some reached for water jugs, and others took another glance at the new music we were rehearsing, I took in the scene with a rare rush of pure happiness. We were back in Rockford, surrounded by our best friends; our show was dark and complex-- “Classic” Phantom Regiment; we were free from the mundane patterns of normal life; and we were about to transition from move-ins to the excitement of tour. A very distinct thought echoed in my mind that particular June evening Ensemble block in the summer of 2006: “There is NOWHERE else I would rather be right now.”
It’s a scene that is etched in my memory even today, fourteen years after that particular summer, and the details seem to grow more vivid the further away time carries me. Whether it’s the artistry, the people, the athleticism, the adventure of life on a bus, or a combination of all four, there’s something about drum corps tour that makes us feel alive.
If drum corps tour is one of the rare escapes from the mundane, painful realities of “normal” life—a haven where we’re able to feel the rush of being vibrantly alive—it makes sense that the cancellation of the 2020 DCI Tour has been so difficult for the entire drum corps community. While most of us would eventually admit that drum corps is secondary to the complex ramifications of a Global Pandemic and the good of society, it’s still undeniable that something precious has been lost. Whether a person aged out 40 years ago, or was about to embark on their rookie season, the drum corps community feels a collective grief over the loss of a DCI season. That slice of magic we’re all used to sharing in the summertime—whether over a 28-city stretch, or just a perfect escape of an evening as a spectator in the stands—won’t exist for anyone this year.
You Were Made For This
Perhaps you have a vivid memory from a drum corps summer, like mine from 2006. In the past month, I’ve seen and heard more reminiscing about DCI than I ever have. Friends, instructors, and students are sharing the things they love most about drum corps. And their reasons are as varied as the people who march:
● Carefree days full of sunshine (and torrential downpours and tornados, let’s be honest)
● Real friendships and relationships
● A sense of family
● The adventures of travel
● Being in such great physical shape (sidenote—enjoy that now! I’m still trying to make sense of why my 33-year old body doesn’t burn off a snack quite as efficiently as it did after marching a show!)
● Doing something you love
● Mastering a skill and an art
● Acquiring discipline
● Being part of something bigger than yourself
● A creative outlet
● One last sense of play before adulthood careers begin
● The beauty of the activity
● A “whole person experience” - mind, body, and emotions are in use at the same time
I think these answers tell us more than we realize at first glance about both us as people, and about who God is. In simple terms: you were made for this. Philosopher Dallas Willard hit the nail on the head when he wrote,
“You see, the greatest thing you and I can imagine is the fellowship of other loving persons, to love and to be loved, to know, to enjoy, to be with, to adventure, to create. That’s what has been going on in heaven forever. There is an everlasting, eternal party that we cannot even begin to imagine.” (Dallas Willard, Life Without Lack, p. 20)
We love drum corps because we were made to thrive in endless carefree days filled with real relationships, adventure, and vitality. We were created to create, to be bearers of beauty, and to throw every dimension of our being—heart, soul, mind, and strength—into something we love, with excellence. We love drum corps because it’s one of the few places in this broken world where that kind of experience is offered to us. We live and breathe drum corps because for some reason, it feels more real and solid and true than staring at a glowing screen, or sitting in isolation, or working a corporate job. We love drum corps because at its best, it is a hint, a whisper, a shadow, of the kind of life and world we were actually made for.
Whether we know it or not, the best parts of drum corps are just a faint taste of what is to come in eternity when God has made all things new, wiped away every tear, and restored our broken world to wholeness. He is the substance of the delight under all our drum corps days.
So while it’s heartbreaking to lose DCI this summer because of COVID-19, take heart. If you belong to Christ, you’re headed toward an eternity of life in the Kingdom of God, eternal days of summer, where we’re forever with Light Himself. It’s a family of perfect relationships where we’re fully known and completely loved. Camaraderie and humor will be the backdrop of constant adventures around a perfect world and universe, in new bodies completely recreated and free from the encumbrances of age, injury, coronavirus, and death. We’ll collaborate with the Creator of all things, who is brimming with more innovation and power than we ever saw in our drum corps days. Can you imagine comparing notes with the One who thought up sound waves floating on a summer night and painted every evening sky we ever appreciated? All that has been lost this summer will be restored.
And if that’s not you—if you don’t belong to Christ, and you think this is crazy and I am out of my mind—consider for 30 seconds the possibility that your love for drum corps was meant to draw you to the source of it all along. You were made for this. You were made to know Him.
We may not have a 2020 DCI season, or an escape from the brokenness of life this summer. But our grief is meant to remind us that Jesus has provided the ultimate escape for us from hopelessness, despair, isolation, distance, death, and the much more deadly virus of sin. Everything we love about drum corps tour is merely a faint taste of who He is and what He has promised us.
So yes, grieve the loss of tour. But also let this loss press you into anticipation of the Kingdom to come, and the eternity those who know Christ are headed for. The restoration of all things is something even the best drum corps summers can only hint at. That’s your future for all eternity.
Alicia is a contributing writer to Box 7 and was a founding staff member of the ministry. She marched four years at Phantom Regiment, aging out in 2008, then spent multiple seasons on staff. She also toured Japan in 2008 as a cast member of the all-female show, Odyssey, which was comprised of 40 former drum corps performers. Alicia holds an M.A. in Theology from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a B.M.E. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. More of her work can be found at aliciaheuer.com. Alicia lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, Rob, and daughter, Henley.